Yeasayer, Odd Blood
Do not adjust your set. Two voices, twisted and treacly, ooze out of the speakers over bubbling synths and booming drums. What the hell? Check to see if the track is corrupted – everything seems okay. Well, what did you expect from a band like Yeasayer?
Weird and brooding opener ‘The Children’ gives you an inkling of where these Brooklyn experimentalistas want to take us with their second album, Odd Blood – a retrofuturist prog-pop journey which stands on the shoulders of their acclaimed debut LP All Hour Cymbals, travelling deeper into the realms of the uncategorisable and becoming an early contender for 2010’s album of the year in the process.
As part of a wave of U.S. bands defining a new pop aesthetic influenced by African rhythms, Eastern scales and other sounds that used to be lazily described as ‘world music’, Yeasayer have always stood out as the village elders of the scene, with their extravagant and meticulously crafted songs and live performances.
The first single from Odd Blood, ‘Ambling Alp’ (released last year) is a perfect example of the band’s refined ear for detail, with their trademark hollow, artificial drums and funky, clipped bass underpinning a whole palette of unidentifiable noises dropping in and out over Chris Keating’s acrobatic gospel-tinged vocals. It’s about the most certifiably bonkers a band can get within the four-minute pop song framework. Your brain latches on to the almost embarrassingly earnest, sing-along lyrics (“Stick up for yourself son/ Never mind what anybody else done”) while the music sneaks in round the back, and by the second or third listen ‘Ambling Alp’, and the rest of the album, seem instantly familiar.
‘Madder Red’ in particular, with its chanted opening, off-kilter melody and colossal enormo-drums, is completely weird but totally immediate, with a minor key chorus that might as well be Duran Duran – it’s immaculate, dazzling pop.
Just trying to pay attention to each sound – with every verse and chorus different to the one before – is hard work. ‘Love Me Girl’ starts somewhere between commercial trance and the YYYs’ ‘Heads Will Roll’, but mutates into a pulsing, jerking electro gem so sleek and polished you can see your face it. Is it prog? Is it electro? Is it pop? Erm. It’s bloody odd, that’s what. And I’ll put money on it – Yeasayer have made one of the best records you’ll hear this year.